On a recent Internet of Things Podcast episode, we took a voicemail from Sherry on our hotline. She has a 1,400 square foot home and is wondering if it’s worth buying a mesh router. Most routers today are advertised as covering at least that much space, so it’s a valid question. But there’s more than just square footage to consider when it comes to routers and smart homes.
For starters, wireless signals travel through some materials better than others. If a home is built with standard stick-and-frame construction, it’s easier for those signals to pass through than if the walls are made with concrete. Metal inside a wall can also adversely affect a wireless network as well. So if a router is advertised as covering 1,500 square feet, that may be accurate in a best case situation. Depending on the building materials in a home, that figure could drop by quite a bit.
Additionally, network coverage will vary based on the placement of the router as well as the overall house footprint. I live in an end-unit townhouse, for example. So the floor plan is more of a long and narrow rectangle. And my fiber internet connection enters the house at a front corner of the basement. Getting a signal to the back of the house with a single router isn’t ideal. That’s important because we have connected lights, switches and a smart oven in that area.
We also have a deck off the back of the house where I like to work when the weather is nice. That single router all the way at the opposite end of my house won’t cut it even though the first floor is roughly 1,000 square feet. We also have a similarly sized second floor, which makes it even more challenging to get strong Wi-Fi from that basement router.
Due to all of these variables, we generally recommend choosing a mesh router over a traditional router these days. While you can add signal extenders to a basic router, that functionality is optimized and built in to mesh router systems.
In my case, I have a mesh router in the basement that’s hard wired to my internet service. I have a second mesh router on the first floor in the middle of the house. And I added a third unit in my second floor office. Combined, these three mesh routers provide great coverage and solid speeds in every room and on my deck.
For Sherry, we recommend looking at one of the latest mesh router systems that use the WiFi 6E standard. These often route direct bandwidth between the routers on a dedicated frequency. That can free up other frequencies, such as the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands for devices, reducing traffic congestion on them to speed up device connections.
Some of these, like the Eero and Google Nest WiFi Pro products, also include a Thread radio. That future-proofs the home for Matter devices. And Sherry can try a single mesh router unit to see if one will do the trick. It’s simple to add another unit to extend the mesh network although it’s generally cheaper to buy more than one unit up front.
A single Google Nest WiFi Pro router costs $199, for example. Ordering two at once gets you both mesh units for $299. The same goes for Eero units, which are what I use. A single Eero Pro 6E sells for $249 but a two-pack only adds $150 to the bundle for a cost of $399. For what it’s worth, I’d pay the extra for Eeros based on my experience with them compared to the Google units. Of course, there are many good mesh networking options out there from other companies too, such as Asus, Linksys, Netgear Orbi, and TP-Link to name a few.
To hear Sherry’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things podcast below: